Local dog owners are on their guard as friends report finding ticks on their animals and children much earlier in the year than usual.
“In fall and winter ticks don’t go away really,” said Veterinarian Jessica Kidd, owner of Green Meadow Veterinary Hospital. “Any day above 40 degrees they look for a blood meal and even in the cold of January we still had dogs coming in with ticks.”
Kidd explained that even in temperatures below 40, “warm pockets” like closely growing trees and the area surrounding homes can still harbor tick activity.
“Pine trees are an excellent place to pick up ticks,” she said. “From our standpoint, you need yearlong prevention for cats and dogs. We are seeing a huge number of dogs with tickborne diseases in our area.”
Labrador owner Jeanine Cross, 25, of Marietta, said she was first alerted by friends in northern Ohio that ticks were active in February.
A tick found on a canine patient this year is the size of two numbers in the year imprint on a penny. Photo courtesy of Veterinarian Jessica Kidd
“My concerns (with her lab Diesel) are not noticing right away,” she said. “(Ticks) carry a lot of diseases. We keep tick and flea medicine on him pretty much year round because of where we live (and) we go up to our property in Wayne National (Forest) all year to hunt, we hike around with him right now to shed hunt.”
Frank Cooke, of Marietta, said he’s not so worried about his husky Buster, though he said he still checks him regularly.
“He takes a pill once a month for ticks and fleas and then another a week later for fleas and worms,” said Cooke. “I don’t like putting things on his coat, but the vet I go to is good to him. He’s never had any problems.”
Kidd said the best protection dog owners can do is become familiar with what to look for and be vigilant in checking the animal.
“They’re the size of a freckle before they’ve fed,” she said. “But a fully engorged tick is the size of a date on a penny. So keep a lookout, a new freckle or mole this time of year may actually be a tick.”
She said lighter coats attract ticks faster and tickets will even go in warm areas like between toes and inside ears.
“Check those areas daily, look on the tops and bottoms of feet and in between the pads,” Kidd added. “And with your kids, check their hair and neckline, behind the ears and along the waistband and the tops of socks.”
Meanwhile, tick-borne Lyme disease cases are on the rise, according to the Ohio Department of Health, though both the Marietta and Washington County health departments say they haven’t seen any patients come in with ticks yet this year.
Cases of Lyme disease have steadily increased in Ohio during the past five years with 93 cases in 2013, 119 cases in 2014, 154 cases in 2015 and 160 cases in 2016. ODH says the increase in cases coincides with the increase of the black-legged tick in Ohio.
As of October 2017, 61 counties, including Washington, Morgan, Monroe and Noble, have confirmed populations of black-legged ticks.
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected deer tick. Symptoms can include a flu-like illness, muscle pain, and headache; a bulls-eye shaped rash is often also seen at the site of the bite as well.
“Lyme disease can progress to kidney failure and cannot be stopped,” said Kidd, speaking of the disease’s impact on pets. “I’ve had a couple dogs come in with eye problems too. All tick-borne diseases can decrease platelets so your dog can develop a bruising or bleeding disorder. Not long ago we had a dog come in… and she was extremely positive for Lyme disease.”
Kidd said there is a vaccine that while it cannot prevent tick bites, can stop the progression of Lyme.
“It’s $28 for a vaccine,” she said.
At a glance
To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit a disease to you or your pets:
¯ Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
¯ If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
¯ Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam.
¯ Talk to your veterinarian about tick-borne diseases in your area.
¯ Reduce tick habitat in your yard.
¯ Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet.